San Quentin’s own quiet hero

By Eddie Herena

Nigel Poor, one of three members of a unique prison podcast, Ear Hustle, received an award dedicated to honoring public servants.

The Jefferson Award for Public Service is given weekly to one person for his or her behind-the-scenes work in the community. In Poor’s case, her work is behind the walls of San Quentin State Prison.

“I was shocked,” Poor said when she was notified by the selection committee. “It feels great, but I’m usually shy about things like that.”

Poor, a Bay Area resident, artist and art history professor at California State University Sacramento, began her public service in the summer of 2011. She taught art history for the Prison University Project at San Quentin. In class, she emphasized the importance of photography and how photographs are powerful because even just one photo can tell an endless number of stories to different onlookers.

She also found among the men an endless number of stories and wanted to help get those stories to the outside world. So, shortly after her summer class ended, she helped produce the San Quentin Prison Report (SQPR), a radio program currently broadcast on KALW 91.7 FM.

The high quality of the work the men were producing behind the walls in the old SQ library was finally making waves, a process that Poor was instrumental in bringing about.

“If we didn’t have her, the radio program wouldn’t be what it is today,” said Tommy “Shakur” Ross, a SQPR journalist.    

Now, with the rise of Ear Hustle, she is more committed than ever to continuing her work with incarcerated men.

“People in prison can be productive citizens,” Poor said. “They can work with people who are not (incarcerated) and show that they can really work together.”

“Volunteers are the ones on the frontlines for public safety,” said Earlonne Woods, a co-creator/host of Ear Hustle, referring to Poor’s commitment to his success on the inside.

When KPIX Channel 5 reporter Juliette Goodrich and camerawoman Jennifer Mistrot heard of the prison podcasts, they went inside the prison to cover the story.

Mistrot was impressed with the work that Poor was helping to produce. She was so impressed that she submitted Poor’s name for the Jefferson Award. Mistrot came back again, this time with reporter Sharon Chin, for yet another success story.                      

Nigel Poor is San Quentin’s quiet hero.

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